Family and Marriage: Tobit 7-9:6
The book of Tobit is a love story, in many senses. Through the ups and downs, the love of family members for one another is a key feature, both immediate family and extended family. Tobiah represents his immediate family as he visits the household of his kinsman Raguel. The deep love for extended family is so great that it overflows in tears all around when Raguel discovers that Tobiah is the son of his cousin Tobit.
At the heart of all family is the covenant of marriage. At the heart of the marriage between Sarah and Tobiah is a rich theology of marriage whose fulfillment we can see in Christian marriage today. When the couple prays together on their wedding night, Tobiah shows the origins of marriage in the very creation of human beings as man and woman (8:6). Then he prays a beautiful prayer for purity, fidelity, faithfulness and fruitfulness in marriage: “Now, not with lust, but with fidelity I take this kinswoman as my wife. Send down your mercy on me and on her and grant that we may grow old together. Bless us with children. They said together, ‘Amen, amen!’” (8:7-8).
Several times Tobiah and Sarah are referred to as brother and sister to each other. They’re not literally siblings, but they are both children of God. This can be a beautiful reminder for us today that the primary relationship between a wife and husband is as a beloved daughter and son of the same Abba Father.
With Raphael’s help (including the smelly concoction of fish potpourri – perhaps not to be recommended as a common wedding gift!), the demon who plagued Sarah is cast out and God brings joy to her heart by answering her prayers with her new husband Tobiah.
For the people in this story the sense of family extends to all of “our people” – the people of Israel, then in exile and captivity. This foreshadows the love of God binding all people and nations together in Jesus. In Jesus, every human person is invited into the family of the Church as beloved sons and daughters of the Father and as brothers and sisters to each other. At the center of this family is the marriage between Jesus the bridegroom and his bride the church (see Revelation 19:6-9).
Father, thank you for drawing us in the family of the Church. May we take joy and have strong emotional bonds with each other as brothers and sisters in faith. Jesus, unite us even more deeply to you as a bride to a bridegroom, in joy.
St. Raphael, pray for us!
Fr. Phil Hurley, S.J.